Thursday, September 19, 2013

What Moves You?

It’s hard to imagine how forbidding an outdoor pool looks on a December morning when it has been raining all night and the wind is whipping the water up and over the deck. Now, try to place yourself there in a slightly damp swim suit from your workout the night before – arms and legs bare, standing with your toes curled over the edge, staring down at the frigid 5 am water.
There was a time in my high school swimming career when I managed to fit in four hours of swimming, an hour of weights and running, six hours of school, and a lunch-hour lifeguarding job – in order to get everything done, I had to do things like swim at 5 am. My parents quipped that they had a part-part-time daughter. The fact that I regularly left the house at 4:30 am and returned past 9 pm meant I rarely ate dinner with my family, hardly slept, and considering that swimming was a year-round sport – I often got called motivated during the summer, fall, and spring – and just plain crazy during the winter.
Nonetheless, every December I would get the same question. I’d swim for hours before dawn and arrive at school a little tired, weathered, and damp. Snuggling deep into down jackets, my friends would joke that there must be gold at the bottom of the pool. At least, that’s what it would take to get them to even consider my morning routine. What is The Secret, then, they would ask. The Motivation – where does it come from?
For the longest time, I never really knew how to answer. I knew that my health, my school work, my job and my sport were important to me, and I also knew that I have always wanted to do everything that I needed to do, so I could be as good as I could be. But for some reason, that didn’t really sound like much of The Answer that people were so curious to hear.
Years later, I think I’ve finally got it. Last week, I had the opportunity to hear Richard Lavoie speak about motivation in respect to education. Surrounded by teachers, parents, and other intrigued professionals, I eagerly sat through his stories and presentation just waiting to hear The Answer. How do you motivate kids to do well in school? Bribe them? Reward them? Punish them? Praise them? Well, maybe. The sneaky thing is though, while it’s The Answer, it’s not necessarily Your Answer.
According to Richard Lavoie, each person has a motivational profile that is comprised of varying levels of importance of the following eight categories:
For better or for worse, individual profiles tend to be different and maybe it all it takes is a push from a private SAT tutor. In a classroom of 20 students, while one motivational technique (like the idea of “winning” a spelling bee) might work for one student, it’s quite likely that it has little convincing power on the rest of the group. While this might sound daunting to any teacher trying to manage and “move” an entire class, the great thing is that most people identify strongly with at least one of the eight categories above. This means that most students in a group will be encouraged to learn their spelling words – a technique that highlights one of eight motivators.
The tricky part, I think, comes in the identification of your own Answer. Looking back at my life in high school and my current situation as a professional adult, it has become clear to me that Autonomy is a hugely dominant on my list. Give me a project to do on my own? I’m thrilled. In high school, it was clear that I would do anything so long as it included me being independent. Clearly, the measure of Autonomy in my motivational profile can only truly be measured by its ability to get me into a bathing suit and into the 78 degree water at 5 am during a December storm.
While I apologize for not being able to reveal The Answer to universal motivation, the redeeming value is the reminder that we are all different. We may be one of a kind, but without someone curious enough to devise a way to travel in space, bold enough to become president, or social enough to create the NFL - life would be boring. After all, someone has to get into the pool at 5 am – and trust me – there isn’t always gold at the bottom.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Navigating the LAAIS School Fairs - What Every Family Should Know

This is a post I had written in the Fall of 2011, but it will be incredibly valuable to parents visiting the LAAIS school fairs in May 2012 (and beyond). Keep this information in mind when you attend the ESAD School Fair on 5/15/2012.

Standing in a parking lot adjacent to the Willows Community School, I could hear the anxious din of parents milling about the school's auditorium. It was the Fall 2011 Consortium of Secondary School Admissions Directors (CSSAD) Fair, and I was eager to learn what all of the fuss was about. 

Reader, if you were unable to attend the fair yourself, please allow me to regale you with my findings. In this post, I will explain the purpose of the CSSAD Fair, its target audience, my conversations with participating admissions directors, and other 'insider' tid-bits that will be invaluable to you. In addition to a general review of the event, I will also share some poignant information about the 'Do's and Don'ts' of school admissions – we're talking direct quotes from the 'gatekeepers' of private school: the admissions directors.    

So what is the CSSAD School Fair and why should I care?

The CSSAD School Fair is a bi-annual event facilitated by the admissions directors of the Los Angeles Area Independent Schools (LAAIS...another acronym for ya). It is designed to connect independent school admissions directors with families who are getting ready to apply for the following school year. The event format is much like a trade show. Each school’s admissions directors are assigned a booth where they may distribute their school’s literature and provide detailed information about their educational program. Typically, multiple admissions associates or administrators will make themselves available to chat with parents and field questions. The 'vibe' of the event is very casual, friendly, and pretense-free. The event is clearly geared toward grown-ups, so parents, do NOT bring your kids along. I could hear the irritated scoffing of admissions directors when fully-fledged-families-of-five would come trouncing through the halls.

So why should you care about going to the fair? This leads me to Insider Tip #1!

Insider Tip #1:  

The CSSAD School Fair (and it's elementary school counterpart, the ESAD School Fair) is the only time when all of the LAAIS schools organize as a collective and are able to chat about their specific programs. As it is enforced by LAAIS, all schools affiliated with the consortium must be present in order for the admissions directors to speak with families about their schools. Oftentimes third-party organizations (non-profits, tutoring companies, educational agencies, etc.) will host panels of LAAIS admissions directors and suggest that 'insider details' will be revealed. Due to LAAIS protocol, the admissions directors are only allowed to speak generally about the admissions process; they are barred from speaking about the nuances of their school or the elements of applications that they most heavily value. It is worth noting that these events can be very helpful, however, they are broadly-focused and will not provide attendees with a deeper look into the lives of particular schools.

How can I make the most effective use of my time at the CSSAD School Fair?

In total, there are 32 schools represented at the school fair. For a complete list, please click the following link:

32 schools is too much ground to cover in an hour and a half. Consequently, you should arrive to CSSAD with a game plan. Do your homework in advance. You probably have a general idea about the kind of school that you would like your children to attend. Typically these schools can be categorized according to their respective teaching philosophies and culture. The rhetoric of these categorizations includes words like 'developmental', 'project-based', 'experiential', 'traditional', 'parochial', 'progressive', etc. You will see these words smattered all over school websites and echoed by the mouths of admissions directors. For a detailed review of these categorizations, I strongly recommend you pick up a copy of Beyond the Brochure by Christina Simon, Anne Simon, and Porcha Dodson ( Christina, Porcha, and Anne have had ample experience on both sides of the LA private school admissions 'fence' and can help you distinguish the type of private school best suited for your family. Which brings me to Insider Tip #2:

Insider Tip #2:

Come prepared and be focused! The school fair is swarming with parents, which makes it very easy for your adult ADD to kick-in. Rather than dawdling, make a hit list of the schools you'd like to get to know better and engage accordingly. When you've finished meeting the folks from these schools, check out some others that you know little about. We all understand how easy it is to get wrapped up in the zeitgeist of 'name brand schools' or the schools that our friends are obsessing about. Every LAAIS school has a niche and corresponding strengths. Consequently, it is important to be both an educated and open-minded investigator.       

I get it – there will be a TON of people there and I need to budget my time. So what should I talk to the admissions directors about?

The fair is the perfect opportunity to get a more concrete 'feel' for the schools to which you are applying. Ask 'bigger' questions aboutthe school's curriculum, administrative structure, culture, financial aid offerings, student composition, sat tutoring etc. These are comfortable questions that can often be addressed to multiple individuals standing at a booth. Due to the format of the event, you probably won't be able to make time-consuming inquiries that involve the particular details of your family - this can be accomplished during school visits, admissions interviews, or private meetings with admissions directors.

Intuitively, I'd like to think that admissions directors are hired because they approximate the ethos of their institutions. They are ambassadors of their communities, and a lot can be inferred from your interactions with them. As a caveat, I should emphasize that admissions directors are a single component of a school's complex landscape. An imperfect conversation with an admissions director should not prevent you from applying. If I had a nickel for every awkward conversation in my life...

Insider Tip #3:

The CSSAD School Fair is not the place for leaving that perfect, indelible impression on an admissions director. The event is not conducive for intimate conversation or private eviscerations of the soul. At a previous fair I had attended, I saw a mother who was peddling her daughter around with sprigs of lavender to hand to admissions directors. The girl was wearing a lavender t-shirt, and I have little doubt that her name was also 'Lavender' (clearly, mother had been planning this for some time). I'm sure the lavender ordeal was incredibly memorable to admissions directors, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was judged as hokey or inappropriate.

Rather than giving out handicrafts or those miniature topiaries you've been pruning all year, grab a cookie, coffee, and help yourself to the fruit platter in the foyer – take it easy and converse with good folks.  

So who did you meet, Matt? What did they tell you about 'best practices' for applying to private school?

An hour and a half was hardly enough time to meet everyone. However, I did get a chance to chat with some admissions directors who told me a bit about their schools AND gave me some application tips. It's worth mentioning that Launch Education spends an incredible amount of time getting to know the curriculum, culture, and community of the schools that our students attend. This makes our academic tutoring and ISEE test preparation programs even more exceptional. 

Archer School for Girls
Director of Admissions: Beth Kemp

“Don't rely on the chatter of other parents when making admissions decisions. Do the investigation yourself – get to know the school and take a tour. I would also recommend that if you attend an Open House, pay particular attention to the teachers. You can tell a lot about a school's community and the quality of its education based on the attitude of its faculty. Are the teachers happy, excited, and engaged? We take pride in the fact that our teachers are thrilled to be a part of the Archer community, and it shows. This is particularly important at Archer, because our teachers are deeply connected to the lives of their students.”

The Wesley School
Admissions Associate: Brenda Stump

“Please be concise with your application. I would also recommend that you come to an open house as soon as possible. Get a taste for the school – it will help guide your approach to the application. Lastly, be yourself. There's no need to change in order to fit the image of our school.”

Windward School  
Admissions Associate: Lisa Walker

“Don't procrastinate and wait until the last minute to submit your application. We're fresher at the beginning of the season (laughs)! I also know that in terms of the ISEE, Windward places particular importance on a student's Reading Comprehension scores. The Reading Comprehension section says a lot about a student's critical thinking abilities, which underlie a student's capacity to learn across different subject areas.”

Sinai Akiba Academy
Director of Admissions: Marla Minden

“Obviously, make sure that your application is timely and totally complete. I can't tell you how many times we have to make phone calls because a major component of the application is missing. This will impact your application process as unless all forms and required documentation is in place, the child’s file will not move into the next phase of admissions, which includes parent interviews, student assessments and finally, the all-important presentation of the applicants file to the Admissions Team.  Also, year after year, everything bottlenecks around tuition-assistance. If you're hoping to receive financial aid, the tuition-assistance section needs to be immaculate. This is particularly crucial at Sinai Akiba, because 25% of our students are given some sort of tuition-assistance.”


So that's all folks. Hopefully this blog post will be of service to you when you consider attending future  CSSAD and ESAD fairs. If you have any questions about the event, please don't hesitate to leave a comment or connect with me directly at: Launch takes pride in its robust professional network, so I'd also be happy to connect you directly to admissions directors or educational consultants who have a firm grasp of the private school admissions process. Take care and best of luck as you navigate this exciting process with your children!



Saturday, September 10, 2011

Making Education Relevant

The 2011-2012 school year has begun.

Have you noticed how different kids' backpacks are these days? And no, I'm not talking about the size or style - I'm talking about what's inside.

When I was in my primary and secondary years of schooling, my back-to-school shopping list contained items like #2 pencils, highlighters, fat pink erasers, a spiral-bound planner, a 2-inch binder, several reams of ruled paper, and maybe some folders and dividers.

All of these things were necessary to keep track of old and new assignments, in-class notes, daily handouts, and the coveted semester syllabus that would only be handed out once: don't lose it!

But things have changed. Kids now have smart phones and computers, electronic text books and digital calendars. Assignments are posted online, and papers can be researched and completed without setting foot in to a library. Students can skype their foreign academic pen-pals in real time instead of waiting weeks for paper mail.

Other parts of the world - different cultures, languages, methods of learning and teaching, ways of thinking and living have become so immediate and accessible that change in every realm (including the contents of a backpack!) now occurs at the speed of light.

The question these days, then, is not "how can we make kids focus and learn in a manner that follows tradition and present society " but "how can we make what we've learned from tradition and history relevant to an ever-changing social and economic educational environment?"

A lecture I attended a few months ago that focused on "educating students with learning challenges" played this animate by Sir Ken Robinson. The goal was to illuminate the concept that it's not that the kids with learning challenges are failing in our system, but more that our system is failing those kids - and more truly, all kids. Check it out!

Another thing I learned from the lecture, is the importance of Private SAT tutoring and how it can tremendously increase the mental preparation of a child. The SAT is a test that has changed over the years, becoming more and more focused on logic and reasoning, thus increasing the difficulty

Friday, September 2, 2011

Football Season, Fandom, and Fall Commitments at School

Going back to school is hard. You have higher expectations from teachers, parents, private SAT tutors, and coaches, and the stakes grow each academic year. Coming after the ease of summer, the fall tends to be an intense time.
Complicating these pressures is the incredible excitement of football season. Being a serious football fan is a serious commitment – at least 4 hours on Saturday and/or Sunday and perhaps more.
Growing up a diehard Michigan and Patriots fan, missing a game was just not an option. Unfortunately, neither was missing any homework assignments or sports practice.
Here are my battle tested tips for staying on top of your academic life while still being an awesome fan:
1. Keep your fan focus sharp. Don’t get sucked in by games that don’t REALLY matter to you. Knuckle down and do your homework during the other games – that will allow you to kick back and relax when YOUR team is playing. Doing your homework while your team is playing is like being the dad on his Blackberry at his daughter’s soccer game – be present!
2. Know your schedule. Is your team playing a night game? Early game? Know this so you can plan accordingly. You don’t want to procrastinate on your homework until Sunday afternoon only to realize your team is playing the night game. That leads to either doing your homework during the game, staying up way too late after, or not doing an assignment – all subpar outcomes. Being a good fan is like being a good student – you need to know your due dates.
3. Take advantage of commercial breaks. The NFL loves commercial breaks and so should you. Commercial breaks are a great chance to mute the TV and go through a set of flashcards or vocab words. There are probably 20 four minute commercial breaks during each game – great opportunities to get some quick studying in.
4. Use the TiVo if you have to. Sometimes, missing a game is unavoidable and totally necessary. School and extra-curricular commitments should always take priority in your life. Lucky for you, there is always the TiVo as a lifeline. If you have to go this route, remember to turn off your phone, email, and don’t go to!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hello, high school!

High school used to feel so far away, and now, here you are at its forefront. For many of you, going into ninth grade means a lot of big changes -- a new building, new classes, new teachers, new peers and new expectations. I know the transition can be a little scary, so I thought I'd share a few tips to help smoothen the ride.

First, forget those dreadful slushie scenes you saw on Glee, and go in with a positive attitude. In the words of Peter Pan, think happy thoughts about your freshman year, and things will be more likely to go your way.

Crack the books.
High school courses are more challenging than those you encountered in middle school, so be prepared to kick the studying up a notch. All of those organizational skills and study habits that your teachers kept pestering you about will come in really handy now that you're an independent high school student. And no matter what year of high school, it is
 never to early to start private SAT tutoring!

Get involved. Take advantage of what your new school has to offer by joining a club or a sports team. What better a way to make new friends? And don't be afraid to talk to your peers. Chances are everyone else is just as nervous as you.

Finally, remember to have fun! Although high school can be stressful at times, it can also be a great experience. In this next phase of your academic journey, you'll get to meet new people, try new activities, and you might even learn a thing or two.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Guest Blogger: Karen Berlin Ishii - Teacher and Test Prep Expert

With this year’s October SAT test date earlier than anticipated, many students and parents are feeling the pressure. Thankfully, Launch Education guest blogger, Karen Berlin Ishii, has provided some full-proof tips on how raise your confidence and scores before October 1st rolls around.

How to prep for the October SAT in less than two months

September and school are looming on the horizon, with the October SATs just beyond. But even if you didn't spend your summer studying, you can still make great gains in your scores. Here's how:

Approach the test with confidence: Your spring SAT scores may be reasonably strong in one or two of the test sections. Great! Colleges will cherry-pick your best scores for each section – Critical Reading, Math and Writing. So focus your studies now on the areas you most need to improve upon. Also, take comfort in the fact that you are nearly a half year older than you were last time you took the test, which often has intangible effects on scores. Many students who studied hard in the spring see their big score improvement in the fall.

Take practice tests: Take full, timed practice tests to build your skills in pacing and identify specific areas to improve on. Take each test in a single sitting, using a pencil and the bubble answer sheets. Turn off cellphones and don't take more than a couple short breaks – make it real! Use the first three tests in the CollegeBoard book of practice tests, if you can, as those are the most recent, real, published SAT tests. Furthering understanding of how questions and answers are formulated, Private SAT tutors can prepare you for any tricky questions. 

Don't just score, learn more! Review your errors, analyze your pacing. Review the math for the CollegeBoard tests 4-10 at, review all answers and explanations for tests 1-3 at, or use a great book of explanations to all the tests, "Tutor Ted's SAT Solutions Manual." When you find question types that you repeatedly have trouble with, look for more of those questions in other drills and then do lots of them, reviewing answers and explanations after each.

Be physically prepared for test day: So, you're mature and prepped. Now the single most important factor affecting your score is your physical and mental condition on test day. Get a good night's sleep all week before your test so you have energy in reserve if you can't sleep well the night before the test. Have everything ready to go the night before: lots of sharpened #2 pencils, test ticket, ID, calculator and fresh batteries. Wake up a few minutes early on test day and do a couple practice questions in each test section to warm up. Eat a good breakfast, then go to your test with an energizing snack, a sweater, and a watch (so you are in control of your own test pacing).

If you've done this homework, you can walk into your test with confidence, and you can be proud of whatever you achieve as you move on to the next tasks in your studies and your college applications.

by Karen Berlin Ishii

Karen Berlin Ishii, a graduate of Brown University, has more than 25 years' experience as a teacher and test prep tutor. Karen teaches students in New York and internationally for the PSAT, SAT, ACT, ISEE, SSAT, SHSAT and GRE, and also offers tutoring in reading and writing skills, math, and college application essay consulting. Learn more about Karen at

Friday, August 5, 2011

Twitter Newsfeeds - Staying Apprised of the World Around You

Ah, Twitter. That enigmatic piece of 'social media technology' that is on the tip of everyone's tongues these days. Whenever I peruse the web, I am confronted by two opposing narratives: 1) Twitter as invaluable marketing tool, news source, and networking masterpiece; and 2) Twitter as collective trash heap of unintelligible web banter (i.e. 'tweetspeak'). While I think that both aficionados and dissenters make important points, it's often difficult for the layperson (a.k.a. me) to discern practical ways to utilize Twitter.

To help average folks like you and me navigate the complexities of the Twitterverse, Launch intern, Caroline Tan, explores one of Twitter's most basic (and powerful) functions: the newsfeed.

The Skinny on Twitter Newsfeeds

Most of you have heard of Twitter, which is a social networking tool that uses the concept of microblogging. The point of microblogging is to post messages that are short (hence the “micro”) and easy to read. These short posts are amicably called “tweets.”

At first glance, you may think this is just another social networking tool like Facebook and definitely another way to waste time by stalking your friends online. Yes, stalking your friends online is a good way to procrastinate at your desk, but that’s not the only thing Twitter is useful for. Different people use Twitter for various purposes. Some people use Twitter to update others about their lives, a lot of businesses use Twitter to market themselves, and job seekers even use Twitter to look for potential jobs.

What do I use Twitter for, you ask? I personally find Twitter useful for accessing news. Here are a few tips on being up-to-date with the news you are interested in and pointers on how to organize them.

Identify Your Interests

Make a list of what you’re interested in reading about. Maybe it’s sports, politics, tips on getting into top colleges, private SAT tutoring, or even news on Lady Gaga. Now click on the “Who To Follow” tab at the top of your Twitter page and search for feeds to follow by entering those interests in the search box. For example, if you type “education” into the search box, you will get feeds like @usedgov (education information straight from the government), @tedtalks (follow amazing speakers through this feed!) and @USNewsEducation (research on college rankings to help you during the college application process). The list of feeds goes on and on. If you are uncertain of what to add to your list, you can choose to browse by interests or view suggestions that Twitter has generated for you based on who you are already following or who your friends follow.

Create Twitter Lists
If you find that you are following too many users and have a hard time organizing the news you read, then maybe it’s time you started categorizing them into lists. Under the “What’s Happening” text box, there is a tab for “Lists.” Twitter Lists allows you to filter the news you read based on what you feel like reading at a certain point in time. For example, if you only wish to read news pertaining to Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Beyonce, then you would make a list named “Celebrities” for just them.

If you’re not up to making your own list, consider following someone else’s instead. For example, I follow the Wall Street Journal’s politics list that features 32 different users discussing U.S. politics and policy on Twitter. The WSJ also has lists on various other topics of discussion such as business, investing, and healthcare. You just have to search around to see what cool stuff you can find.

Utilize Twitter Apps
Call them Twitter add-ons, plug-ins or whatever it is you prefer. They are simply websites with built-in scripts that complement Twitter. One of the most popular Twitter apps out there is TweetDeck.

TweetDeck allows you to organize your social media life because it not only allows you to organize your Twitter account into sections like “Direct Messages” or “@Replies,” it allows you to integrate your Facebook, FourSquare, LinkedIn etc. with the application. You have the ability to create or delete columns and name them so you can have total control over your social media experience. Pretty cool, huh?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Guest Blogger: Maxine Ficksman - Editor of 'The Clinical Practice of Educational Therapy'

Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of having lunch with Maxine Ficksman - educational therapy guru and creator of Maxine is one of the founding members of the Association of Educational Therapists (AET) and continues to be a prolific writer on the topic of educational therapy. In this post, Maxine provides an entrypoint to readers unfamiliar with educational therapy, its practices, and its desired outcomes. Maxine's book, The Clinical Practice of Educational Therapy, is a must-read for families, educators, and therapists who seek to enhance the learning and development of their children.

The Clinical Practice of Educational Therapy
Educational therapy is a burgeoning and transformational profession that bridges the fields of education and psychology. This trans-disciplinary practice considers the treatment alliance between therapist and client as being paramount. Only 30 plus years young, the Association of Educational Therapists (AET), the national professional association, sets the standards for training and practice.

How is the work of an educational therapist different from that of a Private SAT tutor? Often parents and professionals ask this question. A brief explanation of this significant issue follows this paragraph. For a more complete explanation, see the text edited by Ficksman & Adelizzi, cited below.

Tutors usually work with children who need help with homework and specific academic skills, whereas educational therapists search for the source of the disconnect in learning which often has a social/emotional component that impacts self-esteem. The main goal of a tutor is higher test scores, while the psycho-educational goals of an educational therapist might include:

1. An augmentation of self-esteem by creating opportunities for success and the recognition of one’s unique islands of competency (Brooks & Goldstein, 2004);
2. A self-awareness of resiliency and an elevated level of coping skill when recovering from a disappointment or self-perceived failure;
3. A decrease in anxiety related to academic and social demands;
4. A self-awareness and strengthening of executive functioning skills;
5. An increase of self-advocacy skills;
6. An expansion of autonomy in meeting academic and social demands.
(Ficksman, M., & Adelizzi, J.U. (2010). The Clinical Practice of Educational Therapy: A Teaching Model. New York: Routledge.)

Educational therapists are skilled in contextual analysis, assessment, remediation/intervention, collaboration, and case management in working with clients who have learning and memory difficulties including dyslexia, AD/HD, nonverbal learning disabilities, Tourette, and Asperger Syndrome. Serving as a resource for parents, educational therapists provide consultation to parents regarding enhanced home routines, socialization, prioritized interventions, referrals, as well as appropriate school placement. Additionally, educational therapists are trained to work with adults, in postsecondary settings and in the workplace, who may experience difficulty with academic tasks, executive functioning, social interactions, and compromised self-esteem. ETs work closely with families, school personnel, and allied professionals to enhance the psycho-educational process of the treatment alliance.

In my first sentence above, I described this profession as transformational. This holds true for the educational therapist as well as the clients. Every day, we as educational therapists learn and improve our own self-concepts. The joy and love we give our clients comes back to us in spades. We are truly blessed.

Last week, one of those wonderful moments occurred when I received a note from a former parent informing me that my former student graduated magna cum laude from a prestigious university! We began our work together when he was in the first grade, just after he had a stroke and underwent life-saving surgery. It took most of his elementary years to regain his self-esteem and motivation in order to reach his potential. While his journey was not that of a student with learning disabilities, his struggles required similar approaches, interventions, and supports.

To further clarify the dynamic of educational therapy utilizing fascinating case studies by a diverse group of accomplished educational therapists, I again refer you to The Clinical Practice of Educational Therapy: A Teaching Model.

Maxine Ficksman, MA, BCET, FAET

Friday, July 22, 2011

Less as More?

Here at Launch Education, we believe in helping students achieve their potential. While this might sound vague, I think the best way to approach it is to think of it as broad. For example, I am often approached with questions that seek me to predict an outcome: How high will my student's score go with private SAT tutoring? When will he become "independent"? When will she "get" Geometry? Which colleges will he get in to?
As you can see, students are working toward their potential in many areas of life - and while I can usually predict with some accuracy a "result," most times I'm wrong - but not in an overestimation - which has led me to answer a lot of questions regarding potential with the preface that I don't want to say anything for certain because I don't want to cap your student's potential.
Indeed, how many times have you surprised yourself with what you are capable of? Often, we can do and go a lot further than we (or someone else) can imagine. In the same facet, children have endless potential. Therefore, I encourage you to guide your student so they can find that potential themselves - in whatever area it may be in, however high it may be.
Below is a fascinating article that discusses children, growth, guidance, independence, and potential. Don't let the title scare you, and don't let the length turn you off. Feel overwhelmed? this might just be the read you need, as the theme is that "less" may actually be better.

How to Land Your Kid in Therapy

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Guest Blogger: Alexis Lauricella - Founder of

This week's blog is a real treat. Alexis Lauricella - founder of and Postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University - shares her insights and research on parent involvement in education. Specifically, she reviews the Family Engagement in Education Act (2011) and suggests ways in which parents can improve their students' academic performance.

The Crucial Role of Parents in Education
It’s pretty clear that the education system as a whole in the United States is struggling to provide youth with an adequate, let alone quality, education. For decades, the US government has enacted policies and programs with the goal of “fixing” our education system by creating new rules and procedures for schools and teachers. Only recently, after decades of continuously failing schools, a new bill was introduced to the House of Representatives that recognizes the crucial role that families, and particularly parents, have on children’s academic achievement. The goal of the Family Engagement in Education Act of 2011 is to provide incentives for schools and districts to engage parents in children’s education with the hopes of closing the achievement gap. This bill is clearly only in its infancy, but the message is clear: parents and families are crucial factors in the academic success of children.

The teachers and school systems clearly can’t do it all on their own. Government funding and regulation are attempting to “not leave any children behind”, but unfortunately, kids are getting left behind and no one is coming to pick them up. Recent reports from the Annie E. Casey Foundation (Fiester & Smith, 2010) indicate that 67% of all 4th grade students are not proficient readers and these numbers are even higher for African American and Hispanic children. Literacy isn’t the only issue. Students are also performing poorly in Science and Math, especially compared to children in other countries (Fleischman, Hopstock, Pelczar, & Shelley, 2010).

The US school system undoubtedly needs considerable work and there is no quick-fix answer to the problem. But, parents can help, and even when children in are highly competitive, wonderful academic institutions, parents have a responsibility to be involved and help their children academically. No one expects that parental involvement will fix the achievement gap or the failures of our education system as a whole, but their involvement is crucial!

Research demonstrates that parent involvement does help- significantly! When parents are involved in their children’s education, their children perform better academically and socially (Henderson, 1987; Jenyes, 2003). This doesn’t mean that parents have to volunteer at every school function or become the president of the PTA in order for their child to reap the benefits of education. There are thousands of fun, creative, and easy ways to get involved in your children’s educational success. Here are just a few:

Parent-teach Conferences. Parents can take the lead and work directly with their children’s schoolteachers to determine ways that they can enhance their child’s education at home. Parents can take advantage of the one-on-one time that is provided during parent-teacher conferences to determine what concepts will be taught in class that year and how to can expand upon these concepts at home.

Get Creative. The technological advances of the past decade have provided many new ways for children to learn. Take advantage of quality websites that offer educational worksheets or activities related to a particular topic your child is studying at school. Search for videos (either online or at your local library) related to the concepts your child is learning in school; maybe having the information presented in a new way will help your child learn. Take learning outside the classroom by bringing your child to the library to find related books on topics covered in class, to a museum to see a related exhibit, or even to a park where you can find real world examples of the science concepts being taught in class.

Combine subject areas and interests. If your child is learning multiplication tables in school but really loves to write, work with your child to write a story about multiplication problems. Similarly, if your child loves baseball encourage her to keep scores and calculate batting averages while you watch a game or ask her to write a newspaper article about the game you watched together using some of the new vocabulary words from class. Supplement their learning with private SAT tutors who tutor in multiple subjects, combining school preparation and SAT preparation all in one.

Teachers will educate and work with children at school, but parents need you to help; to expand upon the learning that is occurring in school and help your children prosper and succeed both academically and socially. It would be ideal if teachers and school administrators facilitated and encourage parent involvement with or without incentives provided by the potential Family Involvement in Education of 2011 bill. However, until this bill passes or other action is taken to encourage schools to include and incorporate parents, parents should take the lead and find ways to get involved!

For a list of all works cited, please contact Matt Steiner at

Alexis R. Lauricella is a Postdoctoral Fellow working with Dr. Ellen Wartella at Northwestern University. Dr. Lauricella earned her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology and her Master’s in Public Policy from Georgetown University. Her research focuses on young children’s learning from media and parents’ and teachers’ attitudes toward and use of media with young children. Dr. Lauricella is also the founder of, a website that translates relevant child-development research for parents.